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An infinite story over too soon: An “Infinity Train” Book 4 review

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. That’s a good way of describing my feelings towards the end of Infinity Train. I’m so happy this show got made, and I’m happy we got four seasons out of it. It’s been a hell of a ride.

But, I’m not going to give up on trying to get the show renewed. 

Not only because I want Owen Dennis to be able to tell the full story as intended, but also because I don’t want the series to end on the note it did.

The journey – this season – wasn’t particularly epic; the character motivations were trivial and the ending was cliched. It’s not bad – but it’s certainly not the strongest writing I’ve seen from the team. And certainly not how I want the show to end.

“Book 4: Duet” follows life-long friends Ryan and Min-Gi who awake on the train after having arguing

The denizen that joins them is Kez, a talking bell, who seems to live in her own world. Realizing their numbers are connected – Ryan and Ming-Gi must work together to get their numbers down to zero so they could return home.

You know how it goes.

The Good

I saw somebody on Twitter say what made this season great is that we got to see what a journey on the train is supposed to be like (more or less.) Which is an interesting way of looking at it. Definitely, none of the other protagonists have had a “normal” train journey,

These guys know from the start what they have to do and their journey is relatively safe. Except for that thing in the Art Gallery car that’s probably going to haunt my nightmares. That was utterly terrifying,

It’s very low-key compared to the other seasons I think had this come out after Book 1 – rather than now, I would have felt differently. I understand that each season can’t keep breaking boundaries in the same way but it still feels disappointing.

I think this concept could have been done better by the team.

The music was pretty good and catchy, I do wish there was more original music. And I wish they’d release a full (like 3 minutes long) version of “Train to Nowhere.

I liked the fact that the season took place in the past; it was an interesting way to explore the train. It gave us an understanding of the original intention of the train and how it was designed to work. That part was really cool.

My favorite parts of the season were the bits with the Steward sneaking around, the train glitching and Amelia giving the passengers their things back.

I think I was hanging on to something familiar, that I knew was going to be relevant. But I got to admit the humor this season was pretty good.

Because it’s more light-hearted, we get to see a lot of the wackier, less dangerous train cars. And we do get to see the Cat.

Just for a brief moment in one episode but…still, I liked her appearance in this season.

And for the most part, I loved Kez; unlike the past denizens, she’s not actually THAT helpful to Ryan and Min (for good reason.) I like that we get to see that passengers affect the denizens’ lives just as much as the denizens affect the passengers; though I wish we had actually gotten to see the relationship between Morgan and Jeremy.

There’s a lot of good little aspects of this season that add to the overall world, but the story itself…has all been done before.

To be honest, I found myself a little bored.

The Cliche

We’ve seen this set up before two childhood friends with a shared dream, who grow apart over the years. One still is following their dreams while the other has accepted their lot in life (and is secretly miserable.) Then their shared dream brings them back together after a lot of arguing.

It’s been done. It’s one of the oldest stories out there. And this season does nothing new with it. They even get their happily ever after with a song inspired by their adventures. Gag me with a spoon – I expected something more from the writers who gave us the complex morality of Grace Monroe.

Like – it’s fine they wanted to go lighter but they still could have presented this set-up more creatively.

Nothing surprised me in this season past the first episode. At least, a girl didn’t tear them apart. That would have made this far worse. And their song didn’t fling them to instant stardom (though I’d love to know if any other train passengers recognized what they were singing about.) 

But it feels so trite. Like the whole crux of the issue isn’t really that Ryan is impulsive and Min is terrified of disappointing his parents…it’s that the two haven’t communicated their feelings properly.

I hate miscommunication as a plot device.

Just fucking talk to each other.

I understand the issue was they weren’t talking to each other because of the psyches, but it’s still the most boring problem you can have two characters work through.

 I would have preferred having one of them in love with the other and not being able to express it; at least that would be interesting for two Asian-Canadian guys in the 80s’.

And they could be gay – or bi. Just not textually. But that’s not the focus of the season. 

It’s also not like I hate all light-hearted media. I loved City of Ghosts, it’s just that…light-hearted shouldn’t mean poorly written or without suspense. But as soon as everything was set up in the first episode – I could predict almost every plot beat.

Except for Kez’s roommate actually being a giant sentient castle. And Ryan flirting with the Cat. That was weird.

Even Kez learning to apologize and take responsibility for her actions was something that anyone with a basic understanding of Western cartoon tropes could have seen coming. The characters felt more basic than the ones in previous seasons.

And there’s a difference between being able to predict things based on clues the creators left behind like Hazel being a creation of Amelia due to her being a turtle and having a predictable plot – because we’ve seen the situation many times before.

This season is the latter.

You could see the plot-mandated friendship failure coming a mile away along with them needing to talk and admit their feelings to get off the train. Then, of course, they go off to achieve their creative dream.

I just wasn’t entertained. All it really did was set up for Season 5. Which is fully scripted but isn’t going to be made because it doesn’t have a “child entry point,” whatever that means.

Amelia’s involvement was the only thing that kept me going.

The Unexplored

I guess with the answers from Dennis’ AMA – that Book 5 would have focused on Amelia taking over the train during Ryan and Min-Gi’s adventure that my criticisms that this aspect didn’t get nearly enough focus are null and void.

But there are other bits I wish had been explored deeper.

For example, both Ryan and Min-Gi have issues with their families; Ryan is one of many kids, ignored by his parents and Min-Gi feels like he always has to please his parents. But this never was defined enough for me; I never saw it as the crux of the problems until they actually bought it up.

It’s obvious that it’s a huge factor in how they were bought up and how they got pushed into two different directions. But I didn’t even realize my first time watching it that Ryan had so many siblings. 

Then there was Min-Gi’s concern about them being two Asian-Canadian kids trying to break into the music industry in the 1980s’, which was only mentioned once. This could have had so much more focus – like that could have been a bigger factor for Min-Gi and I think it would have been worth it if more time was put on the subject. 

It’s interesting!

Also — I never felt like Min-Gi was really into music. He was always skipping out on performances and came across as disinterested.

 I thought that’s what the season was going to focus on: how two friends grew apart over time and that’s okay. If they had done a bit more to establish Min’s character and how much he DIDN’T like the direction his parents were pushing him in – I’d feel differently. 

How they didn’t do this isn’t bad; I just thought it was underdeveloped. Maybe I need to give it another watch. But also, if a season is supposed to be more about the characters they better be STRONGLY written. 

This just wasn’t it, unfortunately. I didn’t quite feel there was chemistry between the two even though they’ve known each other their whole lives.

But that’s likely on me. Another watch or two and maybe I will get it. 

Before the season premiered, Dennis announced that it was his choice to have the Book released all at once. And after watching it; I get it. There are no grand mysteries or suspense like the previous seasons. Many times, the characters will spend two episodes in the same car (though in different locations within it, so the episodes still follow the typical [BLANK] Car title format.

It’s supposed to be about the characters but Ryan and Mon never feel enough like characters to me, in the same way, Grace, MT, or Hazel feel like real three-dimensional characters to me, 

I don’t see them growing as people or characters. Maybe it’s because their problems weren’t big and honestly could have been solved by talking or that the fandom got so excited for the possibility of them being boyfriends that the fact their interpersonal issues are so mundane that it made them seem so uninteresting.

Who knows?

All I know is that I hope people don’t trash it too much. If I knew for certain there was a Season 5 coming, I wouldn’t have as much of an issue with this season. But the past two seasons reached epic heights and really pushed some boundaries,  and I wanted to see that again.

I hope the season will be a success and eventually, HBOMax will renew Infinity Train so it can end as Dennis intended.

I’ll be restarting my campaign to renew the show soon, with an updated Carrd and new letter format so be sure to watch out for that! (It may be a while though, I’m an adult after all and have do adult things) but it’ll get there eventually.

This show has been an absolute favorite of mine and that’s not gonna change anytime soon.

And that’s the scoop!

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Grade:

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Year of release: 2021

Length: 10 episodes, 11 minutes each

Creator: Owen Dennis

Story by: Owen Dennis, Alex Horab, Lindsay Katai, Justin Michael, 

Directors: Madeline Queripe, Alen Esmaelian

Voice Actors: Johnny Young, Sekai Murashige, Minty Lewis, Kate Mulgrew, Lena Headey, Ashley Johnson, J.K. Simmons, Margaret Cho

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